Kastamonu becoming the new home of Turkish handballArticle
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Kastamonu becoming the new home of Turkish handball

There is an old saying suited for the Turkish team hosting the first leg of this season’s Challenge Cup final: Third time's a charm.

Turkish side Muratpaşa BSK reached the final of the competition twice and lost to French teams in 2011 and 2012. Now it is Kastamonu B. Genclik SK’s turn in the final and they are eager to win for both themselves and the Turkish handball community.

Kastamonu’s journey to the final generates great excitement among the public. Thanks to this journey, people have been talking about handball on TV, even on economy programs.


Head Coach Osman Kalyoncu said what excites them most is not the title but its importance for Turkish handball. He said bringing the cup to Turkey became indispensable for the squad because a European Cup title may throw the spotlight on handball again.

An achievement like this for Turkish handball provides handball visibility among the public and self-confidence among players.

According to experts in Turkey, Kastamonu’s model is promising in terms of development of the Turkish handball.

Wonder woman

With an ambitious coach and a bunch of distinguished players, the small city in northern Turkey built something special.

Kalyoncu is positive about using the advantage of the hosting side in the first match in Istanbul. He said the players’ heart and will give him this feeling of trust along with the city’s admiration for handball. Faithful spectators will fill the hall in Istanbul and an airline has already arranged a tour to Gran Canaria, 5,000 kilometres away for the second leg.

Turkish idols

With injury worries heading into the final, Kalyoncu is a bit anxious and will rely on the devotion and desire of his players. With a balanced mix of experienced and young players, Kastamonu set their hearts on success.

Crotian left back Maja Koznjak and intelligent playmaker Serpil İskenderoğlu will be key players, Kalyoncu said he can use those two anywhere in the court except the line.

Young line player Ceren Demirçelen Turkey’s star right back Yeliz Yılmaz are both nursing injuries but expect to play, while much is expected of Young left wing Fatmagül Sakızcan is expected to play a big role.

Kalyoncu addressed İskenderoğlu and Yılmaz as the idols of Turkish handball andhe wants to see them as decorated coaches in the future. 

Handball Factory

Under coach Kalyoncu’s leadership, Kastamonu carried out a large-scale talent scouting called Hentbol Fabrika (Handball Factory) last year. Coaches and physical education teachers identified 1,417 talented students in 17 schools.

Handball factory selected primary school children in fourth and fifth grade. Now 300 junior athletes in 10 school teams are playing handball and getting basic fitness training with athletics, swimming, and gymnastics.

Planning for the future

Kalyoncu knows it is not all about expanding the talent pool.

“Every system is crippled without good coaches. Talent won’t do you good if not well trained. A good coach, in our system physical education teachers, has vital importance in the career planning of a young talent.

“Our scouting project is not coin-operated like volleyball. Our goal is development of Turkish sports, not only handball.”

Another club from Kastamonu promoted to Turkish Womens Super League recently. The club also has two feeder teams in lower division and with good coordination between those teams and schools, Kastamonu will serve Turkish handball as a centre of excellence in the future.

Kalyoncu's dreams

“You need to chase your dreams. Two years ago I had big dreams, now I have seen some of them become reality.

“Now I have new ones. I want to be a part of a team competing in the Champions League, to participate in the Olympics,” Kalyoncu emphasised, but he also admits even his team does not have a goalkeeping coach.

Osman Kalyoncu, a lecturer at Marmara University Faculty of Sports, is a devoted handball enthusiast and ambitious to start a new chapter in his career by claiming the EHF Challenge Cup.

“Decision makers will bring the matter to the table,” Kalyoncu said. If they win the Challenge Cup, he believes it will be a milestone for Turkish handball. The government has already announced a modern sports hall with 3,500 seats will be built in Kastamonu to be used for handball.

TEXT: Fulya Öktem / cor